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CADOT (Cadotte), JEAN-BAPTISTE, fur trader and interpreter; baptized 5 Dec. 1723 in Batiscan (Que.), son of Jean-François Cadot and Marie-Josephe Protean; d. in or after 1803.

Jean-Baptiste Cadot first went to the Upper Lakes in 1742, engaging himself at age 19 to Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Roch de Ramezay* for a journey to the Nipigon country. Perhaps he was encouraged by his father, who had made a voyage to Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.) in 1717. In 1750 Cadot was again in the west, this time in the employ of Louis Legardeur* de Repentigny and Louis de Bonne* de Missègle, who together had been granted a seigneury at Sault Ste Marie (Mich.). The rushing rapids in the St Marys River were a key point in the water route to the interior, since all canoes going between Lake Huron and Lake Superior had to be portaged or pulled through the swift water. Repentigny erected a small fort, and when he left the area Cadot stayed on as his agent.

Cadot adjusted to his wilderness home by taking a Nipissing woman named Athanasie (or possibly Anastasie) to live with him. When a daughter was born in August 1756 they regularized their relationship by marriage at Michilimackinac on 28 October. Three years later another daughter was born and in 1761 a son, Jean-Baptiste. Cadot’s wife was a great asset to him since she was related to the Ojibwa chief Madjeckewiss and was highly respected. The family spoke only Ojibwa at home, and Cadot’s skill with language and oratory won him the position of chief with the local band of about 50 warriors.

By 1762 the British controlled the Sault. Cadot, having a small farm there and being responsible for a family, quickly accommodated himself to the trader Alexander Henry* and the small garrison of Royal Americans (60th Foot) commanded by John Jamet*. In late December fire destroyed three of the four buildings in the fort, sparing only Cadot’s house. Most of the soldiers returned to Michilimackinac, but Jamet was too severely burned to be moved. Late in February, however, Cadot and Henry undertook a very difficult winter trip to return him to his unit, after which Cadot returned home.

It would have been better for Jamet and Henry if they had stayed at the Sault. The Ojibwas under Madjeckewiss and Minweweh*, inspired by Pontiac*’s siege of Detroit (Mich.), took Michilimackinac on 2 June 1763, killing Jamet and capturing Henry. The Indians at the Sault, however, were kept out of the affair by the efforts of Cadot. In May 1764 Henry was permitted by Wawatam*, his Ojibwa guardian, to go to the Sault. Madjeckewiss also arrived there with his band and would have harmed Henry but for Cadot’s intervention. On 22 July Athanasie gave birth to another son, Michel. When the Cadots took the child to Michilimackinac to be baptized on 13 August by Pierre Du Jaunay* the British had not as yet reoccupied the post.

Upon the return of the British on 22 September their commander, Captain William Howard, kept the soldiers at Michilimackinac and planned to rely on Cadot to represent him at the Sault. In May 1765 Cadot was sent there with a wampum belt to acquaint the Indians with the negotiations for peace undertaken by Sir William Johnson*, superintendent of northern Indians. One month later Cadot vividly demonstrated his influence over the Indians by leading 80 canoes to Michilimackinac for a treaty. When the Indians requested that traders be allowed to go to Lake Superior, Howard, heeding Cadot’s advice, gave him permission to trade at La Pointe (Wis.). Establishing a partnership with his former associate Alexander Henry, Cadot stayed at the Sault while Henry traded successfully in the vicinity of Chequamegon Bay (Wis.).

In August 1766 Cadot was appointed as Indian interpreter, a position he held for at least a year; he earned 8sper day and was provided with presents to dispense. Regarded as “that vigilant Friend of the English,” in March 1767 he showed that his reputation was deserved when he persuaded the Indians at the Sault to exchange their French flag for a British one. Working for Robert Rogers*, commandant at Michilimackinac, and also for Johnson, Cadot had become one of the most influential people in the Upper Lakes.

During the summer of 1767 Cadot aided Henry Bostwick, John Chinn, and Alexander Henry in the search for copper deposits along Lake Superior, and he was named as one of Bostwick’s associates when a group of British investors received approval in London to establish mines in the area. During the next few years Cadot served the concern by maintaining good relations with the Indians and keeping them from interfering with the mines. Though the operation proved unprofitable, Cadot’s reputation soared. In 1771 Johnson considered him to be one of the “Two Most faithfull Men amongst the French,” and in the same year George Turnbull, the commandant at Michilimackinac, said Cadot “has an universall good character amongst both Canadians and Indians.”

In 1775 Cadot was part of a large group of traders, including Joseph and Thomas Frobisher, Alexander Henry, and Peter Pond, who travelled west to trade. At Cumberland House (Sask.), after being entertained by Hudson’s Bay Company officer Matthew Cocking*, they set out in various directions. Cadot, with four canoes, went to pass the winter at Fort des Prairies (Fort-à-la-Corne). The western trade prospered, and Sault Ste Marie grew in importance as a provisioning post. Cadot maintained an association with Henry until at least 1778, when he established joint ventures with Jean-Baptiste Barthe, an agent for John Askin.

It was not until 1780 that the American revolution directly affected Cadot. Patrick Sinclair, lieutenant governor of Michilimackinac, decided to attack the Spaniards at St Louis (Mo.) and, feeling that “the Indians are under the absolute authority of Mr. Cadot, who is a very honest man,” he dispatched Cadot with a war party along the southern shore of Lake Superior to try to gain Indian support. A number of Indians enlisted by Cadot did help in the attack on St Louis, but it was repulsed. In October 1781 Cadot was again put on the payroll as an interpreter. In September 1783 Daniel Robertson, now commandant at Michilimackinac, sent Cadot and Madjeckewiss to the Chequamegon region in an unsuccessful effort to stop a war between the Ojibwas and the Foxes and Sioux. About 1767, following the death of Athanasie, Cadot had married Marie Mouet, a Canadian. In October of that year they had a son, Joseph-Marie, who apparently died young. During 1772–73 Cadot sent young Jean-Baptiste to Montreal, where he studied at the Collège Saint-Raphaël from 1773 to 1780. By 1786 Cadot’s sons were working with him under the name of Messrs Cadot and Company and from 1787 evidently conducted most of the firm’s activities. On 24 May 1796 the venerable trader, pleading the infirmity of old age and apparently too feeble even to sign his name, formally turned over the business to Jean-Baptiste and Michel. During his career Cadot had been the major trader at Sault Ste Marie, and although he never became rich he appears to have had a comfortable income. His son Jean-Baptiste was admitted in 1801 to partnership in the North West Company, but he was expelled two years later for drunkenness. The date of the elder Cadot’s death is unknown: one account suggests 1803, but he may have been alive as late as 1812. Louis-Honoré Fréchette* made Cadot the central figure of “Le drapeau fantôme,” a poem published in his collection La légende d’un peuple (Paris, [1887]).

David A. Armour

Clements Library, Thomas Gage papers, American ser., 103: Turnbull to Gage, 12 May 1771; 104: Turnbull to Gage, 6 July 1771; supplementary accounts, “Account of Sir William Johnson’s Indian Department expenses to Sept. 25, 1767”; “Speismacher Indian transactions, Dec. 8, 1767–July 18, 1768.” DPL, Burton Hist. Coll., J.-B. Barthe papers, invoice book, 1778–80; sales book, 1775–79; ledger, 1775–79. McCord Museum, J.-B. Blondeau, account book, 1777–87. PAC, MG 19, A2, ser.1, 3. PRO, CO 700, Canada no.38E. Univ. of Notre Dame Arch. (Notre Dame, Ind.), Wisconsin diocesan coll., Cadotte ledger. Wis., State Hist. Soc., Consolidated returns of trade licences, 1777, 1779, 1781–83, 1785–86 (transcripts). Les bourgeois de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest (Masson). Jonathan Carver, Travels through the interior parts of North America, in the years 1766, 1767, and 1768 (3rd ed., London, 1781; repr. Minneapolis, Minn., 1956), 131–32, 141–43. Henry, Travels and adventures. John Askin papers (Quaife), vol.1. Johnson papers (Sullivan et al.). Mich. Pioneer Coll., 9 (1886), 10 (1886), 11 (1887), 20 (1892), 37 (1909–10). [Robert Rogers], “Rogers’s Michillimackinac journal,” ed. W. L. Clements, American Antiquarian Soc., Proc. (Worcester, Mass.), new ser., 28 (1918): 224–73. U.Sv. Repentigny (1866), 72 U.S. 211, 223–26, 241–43, 247, 251–52. Wis., State Hist. Soc., Coll., 11 (1888), 12 (1892), 18 (1908), 19 (1910). Dictionnaire national des Canadiens français (1608–1760) (3v., Montréal, 1958). Massicotte, “Répertoire des engagements pour l’Ouest,” ANQ Rapport, 1929–30: 221, 424. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Joseph Tassé: Les Canadiens de lOuest (2v.,Montréal, 1878), 1. Wallace, Macmillan dict. Cadotte family stories, comp. T. H. Tobola (Cadotte, Wis., 1974). Maurault, Le collège de Montréal (Dansereau; 1967), 186. Walter O’Meara, Daughters of the country: the women of the fur traders and mountain men (New York, 1968). [This work confuses Cadot’s first and second wives.  d.a.a.]

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

David A. Armour, “CADOT, JEAN-BAPTISTE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 9, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cadot_jean_baptiste_5E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cadot_jean_baptiste_5E.html
Author of Article:   David A. Armour
Title of Article:   CADOT, JEAN-BAPTISTE
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1983
Year of revision:   1983
Access Date:   December 9, 2023